Let Pain Be Your Guide

I had hip replacement surgery almost 3 months ago and recovery has been a journey that I’m still on. While in physical therapy, I asked my PT, Emily, how far I could push the limits of my flexibility. She replied, “Let pain be your guide.”

That really got me thinking about other kinds of pain. As a psychotherapist, I work with emotional pain every day. As a sex therapist, I often address physical pain that is generally connected to traumatic pain. While I don’t want people to suffer and my job is seen as one that eliminates pain, that is not always the case. Addicts, for example, use substances and behaviors addictively in their desire to numb or eradicate the pain of disconnection, which has its roots in childhood events from which they internalized messages of being worthless, not good enough, or being unlovable. I utilize Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy to alleviate the original pain, but then I help them realize that they don’t need to escape from pain. They can bear it and even embrace it since it is part of the human experience. Numbing out means denying other emotions, not just painful ones. Love, joy, and gratitude are emotions worth experiencing and so worth the times of sadness and loss.

For some people, pain can be a trial they want to win. They want to prove that they are strong, hardy, and stoic. Instead of escaping pain, they want to push through it. But both emotional and physical pain, is telling us something is wrong. When you power through the pain, you can do more damage and you also turn your energy inwards as you focus on bearing the pain and disconnecting from your mind’s and body’s needs and from anything and anyone around you.

I’ve had clients who bring that way of being into their sex lives. When intercourse is painful, they endure it in an effort to make it go away or in the hope it will get better. This not a good idea! Continuing what you want to be an experience of pleasure and intimacy, when that experience is painful, only sets up the anticipation of pain with each subsequent sexual event and the pain intensifies. Our genitals speak for our limbic systems – the part of our brains associated with pleasure, emotion, and memory. If our genitals are in pain, then we need to listen to what they are telling us.

Pain has a message for us. We need to pay attention to it and honor our bodies, our psyches, and communicate with our partners honestly. Pain is a common denominator among all living things and when we allow it, we can transform pain into Connection.

Be In Light,